On the Heels of WannaCry, Petya: Same Windows Vulnerability

Computer hacker silhouette of hooded man with binary data and network security termsAfter the news report, the first email we got about Petya was from our antivirus software company. “You’re protected,” was the message.

Here’s the bottom line: If your Windows is out of date (XP or 7), upgrade. Use Windows Update to make sure you are fully patched.

Here’s more info from Wired.

Businesses Still Integrating Legacy Systems – Sage ERP Study

Sage recently conducted a study of top priorities for ERP customers. Sixty-five percent (65%) rated integration of legacy systems into financial systems for a single view of  their data as a top area for new investments.

Data Integration on Metal Gears.This also lines up with many of the projects we are doing today. Businesses that have data in various best-in-class systems increasingly want the data in one place. Salesforce provides their CRM, but they need key customer data like invoices, statements, shipment dates, and warranty claims available  in Salesforce. At the same time, many of these businesses are re-keying order data when they close deals in Salesforce.

Salesforce provides an API that programmers can use to pull data from Salesforce and push data to Salesforce. Programming for this interface makes data flow seamlessly from Salesforce to your other products such as shipping, ERP, and invoicing applications.

But our work isn’t just with Salesforce. Product descriptions, pictures, information from websites, and data collected in Excel, ACCESS, legacy systems, and SQL can also be easily integrated using today’s tools.

Give us a ring for more information on the integration we’ve done lately.

ERP, Technology, and the Danger of Knowing Too Little

There is a new phenomenon I’m experiencing lately: the danger of knowing too little about ERP and technology. I don’t mean the danger of Photo of a person at a desk with head in hands.knowing too little, I mean the danger of businesses knowing too little. Or perhaps individuals in those businesses knowing too little. Or perhaps IT advisors knowing too little.

Here’s what I mean: it’s not enough any more to know the technology. There was a time when our clients were amazed if we could just get things to work (that was a long time ago). Now we need to know much more. Not only do we need to know technical details to make things work, we need to know business processes. It’s more likely today that an IT specialist can make things work; it’s not likely that a business can take advantage of everything that is in the software.

Let’s take a simple example: inventory levels. Simply, that’s how much inventory to order, when to reorder, and how much should be on the shelf at any given time. It also involves deciding which products should in fact be in inventory, and which should be special ordered. Many businesses still use some version of average sales to get to this number. I can tell when I ask, “How do you decide what to order?” If I get the answer, “We have this report that lists the sales for the last 12 months,” I know we’re using average sales at some level.

The fact is that this isn’t the state of the art in inventory management. It’s not about state of the art software. It’s about knowing what is possible (from a business standpoint) and selecting a tool that can produce it.

The problem is that many businesses hand off the (entire) selection of the business software to the IT folk. Many IT folk know too little. But they’d never admit it. So we see ERP systems that half work, and don’t produce the ROI they were designed to produce. Oh, they work from a technical standpoint. It’s the business standpoint where they fail miserably.

The danger of knowing too little.

Is a Tech Foundation the Same as ERP? A: No!

In the last post, I mentioned the concept of a tech foundation. Some might be confused, particularly since DGG focuses on ERP and business software. Since I didn’t fill in the specifics, I think it might need a bit more fleshing out.

Let’s start with an org chart. The titles and who reports to who (in this case) aren’t important. The functions are important.

The CFO, for example, has two basic functions reporting to her. The accounting and financial reporting department handles financial statements and recording transactions. The Internal Audit department assures accuracy and prevents fraud. Likewise, the CMO has sales and advertising reporting to him.

Suppose we matched up each of these functions with software that assists the function. We might come up with something like this:

  • Controller –> Accounting Software (General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, etc.) and perhaps ERP
  • Internal Audit –> CAAS (Computer Assisted Audit Software)
  • Sales –> CRM
  • Marketing –> CRM, email marketing, web metrics
  • Manufacturing –> MRP (Materials Requirement Planning)

This isn’t complete, but you get the idea.

Each of these areas has software (or tools) that supports its function. A good foundation contains tools in all the appropriate areas of the organization chart. A foundation that has more tools piled on one side of the org chart makes the organization lop sided. A good technology foundation provides all the needed tools.

The issue with this is simple: few single individuals–and few single companies for that matter–do all of this well. When you include things like CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing), there are probably fewer than a half-dozen companies in the world that could or would handle all of this foundation. There might very well be none.

So how do you use this foundation concept? I use it as a balancing tool. If I see a client heavily weighted (for example) on the accounting and MRP side, I try to get them to consider the marketing (web site or eCommerce) side of the chart. The best answer is a comprehensive plan, with appropriate priorities. Fix the most pressing problems. first.

I could (and may) write a book about this, but this post is too long already. Tell me what you think. Any questions?

 

Apple Backs Down on Windows Security Comparison

For years, we’ve been explaining to clients that the number of PCs in the market meant that there were more machines for hackers to target. The Mac tax (higher price of Apple products) assured that more homes would opt for lower priced PC based products; home systems are typically more vulnerable than corporate systems. It’s not that Apple products aren’t vulnerable; it’s simply that there are fewer of them to attack, so attackers have typically gone after Windows systems. The article in CRN news below suggests that perhaps Apple has discovered that they, too, are vulnerable.

http://www.crn.com/news/security/240001947/apple-quietly-removes-windows-security-comparisons-from-web-site.htm;jsessionid=+E89xIoXVMIXE-9G57R7oA**.ecappj03?cid=nl_alert

Ice Cream and Vegetables | Leading Results

I don’t often post about pure marketing, but this article seemed to deserve a post. Randy talks about the tendency to want marketing to give instant gratification. His example is Groupon promotions which often lead to a rush of business from new customers that never come back. The loss leader turns into just a loss.

I think this is also true of electronic marketing based on search engines, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Check out Randy’s article and let me (or him) know if you agree!

Ice Cream and Vegetables | Leading Results.

No Time Sheets; No Hourly Rates

Photo of a man who might be a CPA I was trained in Public Accounting, as a CPA. I’m not sure that’s a good thing; I’m pretty sure it’s not a bad thing. Before you ask, I don’t do tax returns and I know very little about IFRS other than the acronym and that it’s important.

I do know, however, that time was important in public accounting. We lived and died (not literally, but in our careers) by the billable hour. More was better; too few and you’d find yourself in the unemployment line or looking for another job.

For management, it was an easy way to judge our contribution. Clients often didn’t receive it very well, particularly when the invoice was more than the “estimate.”

As of March 1, 2012, the only billable hours at DGG will be those we have to track because of existing contracts. Those contracts will end sometime in the next 8 or 10 months, and we will offer fixed prices to all of those customers.

Net results? (a) We can focus on delivering quality rather than billable hours. (b) We will manage delivery of a high quality product on time and on budget rather than managing the number of hours. (c) Customers will know exactly what the invoice will be at the end of the work. No surprises.

So, the billable hour is dead at DGG. Time sheets are dead. Hourly rates are no more.

From now on, we’ll use the time we save to help customers get more profit out of their existing systems. That was how I got into this business in the first place, and it’s what DGG is best at.

Payroll (Social Security) Tax Holiday Extended

Our friends at Ford & Harrison, LLP (labor attorneys) forwarded their newest newsletter with the information that Congress passed the 2% Social Security tax extension bill without waiting until the last minute. Ford & Harrison’s newsletter reads:

Executive Summary: On February 18, 2012, the Senate passed a bill that extends the tax break on the employee portion of the Social Security Old-Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance tax (OASDI) through the end of 2012. The House of Representatives had passed the bill earlier in the week, and it is now awaiting signature by President Obama.

Last week, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which extends, for the remainder of 2012, the 2% payroll tax cut that is otherwise scheduled to expire at the end of February. The bill has not yet been signed by President Obama, but he has said that he will sign it.

Thanks for the info, F&H. Very timely! I was concerned about doing another round of Payroll Tax updates to prepare for the end of the Social Security reduction only to go back in a week after they passed the bill and undo what we’d done.

As to Congress, maybe they are getting the idea that we’re tired of their shenanigans and posturing!

Business Update: The IRS Has an Official Email Address

The email address for the IRS isn’t studiozoom@studiozoom.com.pl. Nor does the IRS have a website at radiobaran.com address. I’m not pulling these from the air. They were actually in an email sent to me with From: IRS Tax Notification Department and Subject: Failure to file tax return on time.

The email body was gobbledygook about section this and subsection that. It indicated that I owed a $10,000 penalty which I could avoid by visiting the website.

If you get one of these, don’t fall for it.

IRS does not send notices via email. You get them in the mail.

And irs.gov is the official website. Anything else is suspect.

Tax fraud is on the rise. Don’t be a victim!

How Often Should You Email?

Most businesses now days have or are building a list of email addresses to market to. The question is, how often should you promote your products to those lists? How often should you send email newsletters?

Quarterly? Monthly? Weekly? Daily?

There’s no hard and fast answer, except for “It depends.”

“On what?” you might ask. Here’s my answer: It depends on whether your email (primarily) provides information or is (primarily) self-serving. If your email newsletter (or tweet or Facebook post) provides information your customer might be interested in, you can send them more frequently. How frequently depends on the information and the list. Here are some examples:

  • I subscribed years ago to the CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) alert newsletter. They issue it as needed, but sometimes several times during a week. I don’t always read it, but I’m glad to see it in my inbox.
  • I subscribed (so they say) to several email newsletters that have turned into vehicles for promoting white papers. When the white papers are requested, very aggressive salespeople start ringing my phone. Multiple times a week. Here’s my answer: right click, Junk, Block sender. Unsubscribe? Why? It would just tell them they hacked me off. I want them to lose more subscribers before they figure it out.
  • I subscribed to a couple of tax newsletters from friends. They seem to send them infrequently. I notice particularly that they DON’T arrive around tax deadlines. Imagine that! I’d like to have these more frequently. They have great information.
  • And now to the reason for this post. I am on the email list of a consultant who is promoting a seminar. I assume the registration must not be going as well as hoped. I received invitations on 1/9, 1/16, 1/20, and today 1/23. The seminar is Thursday 1/26, so I wonder if I’ll get an email every day this week. I really would unsubscribe, but one of these days I might want to attend one of his events. Keep emailing me every day, though, and I’m going to hit the unsubscribe link.

Oh, and by the way. I once unsubscribed without realizing it from a newsletter I really wanted to attend. The organization was using a service like Constant Contact, Emma, or Mail Chimp to send the newsletter. It was like pulling teeth to get back on the email list. Lesson: You don’t want to lose subscribers.